Driving Under the Influence of Kava

Posted by on Sep 11, 2012 in Kava News | 4 comments

Driving Under the Influence of KavaAloha everyone!

Makaira here! I hope you’re all enjoying some pleasant fall weather, and that those of you who have headed back for another year of school are settling in well after a relaxing summer vacation.

I’ve been noticing a rather disturbing trend in recent mentions of kava in the news, and decided that a blog post on the topic was in order. With the increasing popularity of kava across the globe, we are also seeing more and more cases of individuals getting pulled over for driving erratically while extremely intoxicated on kava.

There were a few court cases in California some ten years ago surrounding people who were pulled over after drinking large quantities of kava. In one such case, a man in San Mateo, California, was pulled over, failed a field sobriety test, and said that he had taken 23 (!) cups of kava before driving. The charges against him were dropped when it was determined that state DUI laws did not definitively include kava tea.

In most states (including here in Hawaii) the situation is similar – DUI laws do not usually indicate kava as an intoxicating substance under the influence of which citizens are forbidden to drive. And, fortunately, although I have been seeing at least one article a month regarding an individual being pulled over for driving erratically under the influence of kava, no one seems to have been killed or gotten into a serious accident as of yet.

However, as kava increases in popularity, and as it becomes more and more common for people to use it as a substitute for alcohol, cases of people trying to drive on high quantities of kava are going to increase. It is essential to remember that kava is sedating, and that it does slow down reaction time. Furthermore, those wonderful muscle relaxing effects of kava also tend to decrease physical coordination. I always drink kava after I’m done working and have come home for the night, and would never drive on anything but the smallest amount – I know that my awareness and coordination will not be sufficient to safely operate a motor vehicle. After all, once I’m wrapped in the warm embrace of this beautiful plant, the last thing I want to do is attempt something stressful and potentially dangerous like piloting several tons of metal moving at incredibly high speeds. Furthermore, I don’t know a single person in my family or circle of friends who would ever even consider driving on any significant quantity kava.

So, the reason I’m writing this article is to ask anyone who reads it to be very careful when it comes to kava and driving. I don’t want to hear about anyone coming to harm when working with this plant – kava is a healer, after all, and as long as it is treated with respect, it will only bring benefit to your life. Furthermore, as a community of kava users, we have a responsibility to ensure that this plant stays safe and legal for years to come. If kava becomes linked to automobile accidents, injuries, or, god forbid, deaths, there is a much greater chance that it will be regulated, and that the thousands of people who benefit daily from kava will no longer be able to access this medicine.

Next time you drink kava, take the same precautions that you would with alcohol – be sure that you don’t have to drive anytime too soon afterwards if you want to drink more than just a little, set up a designated driver system if necessary, and call a cab if you find yourself too intoxicated to drive home. Please be safe, and please respect this sacred plant that we may all continue to benefit from its healing powers for years to come!

Aloha no,

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  1. Lisa,

    We share your concern. We have both heard stories and have quietly visited a number of Kava bars to get a feel for what exactly is going into drinks that are supposed to be pure Kava. We have not been to the one you describe, but it’s been more than a bit shocking what we’ve found. On several occasions we not only found adulterants, we found Kratom was being mixed with the drinks as well. We also found two bars that were putting unusually high doses of Kavalactone into the drinks, and not warning their customers in the least.

    I understand the desire as a Kava bar to hit people over the head with the effects of Kava, but that is a reckless attitude, and we always hope that it is the exception more than the rule. We know a number of Kava bars who would shudder as we do at some of the extreme drinks that are made from Kava. It’s one thing to advertise and warn, and it’s another thing completely to leave the consumer unaware.

    I would hope that you don’t change your opinion of Kava, and instead change your opinion of the rogue Kava bar you went to. Most folks I’ve met in the Kava biz are good people, trying to share a passion of Kava with others, in the form of a Kava bar.


  2. My friend has been drinking kava for years now and usually has 3 or 4 shells and is fine. Today she went in to the kava bar as I sat in the car and she drank one shell but it was called “a punch in the face” and it was $22.00. She was back in car after 5 minutes and seemed fine. After driving a few blocks I noticed she was slurring and driving fast and taking really wide turns. I had to force her to pull over because she was fighting it! I drove and watched my friend turn into a zombie!! She reminded me of someone recovering in hospital on morphine. Her face and eyes reminded me of someone with a brain injury. She stared at ceiling of car and was so out of it. Very scary to see and I imagined what would have happened if she kept driving. For about an hour, she could not even lift her arms or head. I do not know what was in the punch in the face but I am shocked that the kava bar tender did not warn her because she drank it and left within 5 minutes. My opinion on kava has changed, I do not like taste myself but I hang with people that love it and I saw the root as a chill out thing. If kava bars are going to start selling these high intensity doses–it is going to become a huge issue when people get behind the wheel on kava. My friend was out of it and passing out on and off for about 2 hours. After 2 hours the muscles in her face were back to normal and her speech was normal again. Wow–very scary and disturbing.

  3. I agree with Gannon…this happens all too often. When was the last time natural products killed someone vs the countless pharama drugs and things like cigarettes that are perfectly legal?

  4. A couple stupid people and the decisions they make should never lead to a natural plant being banned but the excuse to get rid of safe pharma alternatives would be inviting to them. Why not prohibit alcohol ? If kava or Kratom were ever regulated I would consider my liberties seriously in danger.

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